It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of choice regarding social media platforms. It’s much better to be active on one or two sites than to have neglected profiles all over the internet. How do you choose where to start, and where to go from there?
In most aspects of our lives, we tend to choose tools based on how good they are and how much we like them. With social media though, we first have to think about what we want to achieve: what is the tool for? And because social media is all about interaction, we have to think about the community.
Community is everything with online tools like these: being present in the places where the discussions and interactions are taking place which are most pertinent to you, your interests, and your aims. If the community you need is on Twitter, then you need to be on Twitter too, to meet your aims, even if you find Twitter’s 140 character limit too limiting and hate the idea of having to simplify your ideas like that. Conversely, if you absolutely love the look and functionality of Pinterest, but the community you’re interested in doesn’t tend to go there, it’s probably going to be a waste of your time to use it.
Of course, you don't have to go anywhere. It might make career sense to go on a particular platform, but there are compromises attached to any platform and you might not be prepared to make them. We all have to choose what we’re comfortable with.
Where a platform has an open search facility, search for keywords that relate closely to your interests. If there are people talking sense, it may be worth setting up a profile and joining in with that community. If no one is talking about your preferred topics at all, it may not be worth investing any time on that platform.
Sometimes searching isn’t enough and you need to try a platform out to get a sense of the community. It may be worth setting up a profile and listening in for a couple of weeks, then starting to contribute. If it seems like your community is there, put more time into it. If it doesn’t seem like your community is there, don’t be afraid to pull the plug: delete your profile and move on.
What are you trying to achieve, and which platforms are most appropriate to help you achieve it?
Twitter is great for day to day conversation, for keeping up with news in your field or industry as it happens, for keeping in touch with interesting people you met at events but don’t quite feel ready to email yet, for campaigning to try and get support for a particular issue.
Blogs are brilliant for presenting ideas in more depth, for greeting the people Googling you (people are Googling you) with something more representative of your views than the job history on your LinkedIn page, and for being a general HQ for all your social media presences.
The near-ubiquitous Facebook is good for keeping in touch with friends old and new, or for sharing organisational information to a large captive audience, though it can also ride rather high in your search results, so it’s probably a good idea to set your privacy settings equally high.
Instagram is often a more personal medium, good for those who want to engage a little more with their life and interests rather than just their professional identity.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that, at its most basic, can function as an online CV, but, if managed carefully, can also help you build a professional reputation through a network of contacts and endorsements. Like Facebook, it tends to feature quite high in search results, but unlike Facebook, it's a link you might actually want a potential employer to see (assuming you've kept your profile up to date).
Slideshare is underrated and amazing for sharing a visual taster of ideas.
YouTube is great for presenting information in an engaging way - as long as that information isn’t just stuff people could just as easily read.
There are a host of others - far too many to go through individually. All of them can be used both professionally and personally, or both. In many cases, social media works best when it’s not strictly and exclusively either one of those, but a balance, perhaps slightly in favour of professional. As long as you think about what you want to achieve, you can use it in whatever way works best - but above all, remember it’s all about community. It may be that in a way you don’t have to choose the ‘right’ tool -- your community will already have chosen it for you.
Pretty much everybody uses social media, but here we focus on the role tools like Twitter and Blogging can play in the academic landscape. We cover the challenges of using social media professionally rather than just personally, building a reputation, sharing an online portfolio and applying for jobs.
Social media provides a powerful means for researchers to improve visibility and engage in a community of interest, while also offering new opportunities to conduct research.
Use the tabs below to see links to our presence on different social media:
Social media, when it works well, is amazing. It can be a source of support, it can create friendships, it can enhance your career, and it can educate you on things you wouldn’t otherwise learn about. But it has to work for YOU. Be proactive in ensuring social media is a positive and useful aspect of your online life.
You can choose to approach social media however you want, but there are certain things you can do which will help you get the most out of it… Follow the arrow for 10 tips on just that...
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Making connections with alumni and professionals in the fields you are interested in is a hugely beneficial way of getting information and insight to help you succeed in your future career. Social media is increasingly seen as a place to build such networks, and it can also be used to research people and organisations, and to find out about careers and new job opportunities.
Aimed at business professionals, LinkedIn allows you to create an online profile to promote your skills, knowledge and experience. You can connect with professionals in your field through group discussions and introductions, and receive personal recommendations / endorsements from people you've worked with. If managed carefully, this can help you to build up a good reputation, and one which is visible to a good many people (including potential employers). You can join groups based on interests or industry sectors, or even where you have worked or studied — the University of York, for instance! Many graduate employers have profiles on LinkedIn which you can use to do your research.
More informal than LinkedIn, but still a useful networking tool. Facebook allows you to keep in touch with friends and colleagues as they move on in their careers, and to reconnect with people who may be useful contacts to you now. More and more companies have Facebook pages to keep in touch with their customers, and are using their pages to inform students about their recruitment plans and to answer questions.
Twitter is a genuinely useful resource for networking and information gathering. You can search for people working in jobs or sectors that interest you, engage with them, and follow their activity. This is useful for keeping up with relevant news and developments – but it also allows you to contribute to debates, initiate discussions and build up relationships.
Sharing valuable content is another useful way to raise your profile. Make your biography useful and relevant to what you want so that people can find you. Follow organisations to hear their latest news, jobs or work experience opportunities. Following people within organisations may give you more insights. You can start your own conversations and develop a network of followers. As long as you follow the right people and companies you can hear about events, articles, blogs, reports and much more.
Twitter is a convenient way to receive information, but the more you put into it, the more you are likely to gain.
Forums can be found on many company and professional association websites. They give the chance to ask specific questions and receive feedback from a wide range of people – again helping you to develop your network.
Writing your own blog is a relatively straightforward way to raise your profile, while helping others and making connections. It may help you to highlight attributes such as knowledge and expertise in a certain area, willingness to share and help others, confidence, and writing skills. But be aware that maintaining a blog is a significant time commitment — a blog with no recent posts is unlikely to serve you well. However, If you are really passionate about something, blogging about it is a great way to develop your knowledge and communicate your enthusiasm to potential employers.
Another way of getting your name and your thoughts online, without quite the same demand for fresh content as a blog (but also without the same level of interaction), is to create your own website. A simple way of doing that is to use Google Site, but there are other free hosting options available. Like a blog or a LinkedIn profile, having your own webspace is a great way of retaining some measure of control over your digital footprint.
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How can you make your social media posts accessible to everyone? Here's a few tips:
Social media platforms are getting better at including an alt text option which enables you to add a descriptive text for images and gifs. Using this option gives a better experience to those using screen readers, by indicating the content of images and gifs which would not otherwise be processed by their software. The description can be brief and you can even mark an image as decorative, but by doing this you make it clear to a screen reader user that they are not missing information in the images. Some platforms will offer auto generated alt text, but you can usually edit this or add your own, as you prefer.
Hashtags are a good way of boosting attention for social media posts. Capitalising the first letter of each word in a hashtag makes it much more readable and also possible for a screen reader to process, as the software can then recognise the individual words. This capitalising the first letter of each word is often known as camel case.
Fonts which are not a standard part of a social media platform rarely, if ever, work with screen readers, and are harder to read both for those with visual impairments and dyslexia. Sans serif fonts are the best option for an easily read text for everyone.
Avoid posting gifs or videos with strobing effects, as these can trigger migraines and epileptic seizures. If for some reason you need to share a video with strobe effects or rapidly flashing lights, add a warning, so users are able to avoid the video.
If you are sharing a video longer than a gif (for which you can add descriptive text), make sure you add captions. There is information about different ways you can do this in the subtitling section of our video editing skills guide. Subtitling videos makes dialogue accessible for deaf and hearing impaired users, as well as making video clips more accessible for users with English as a Second Language.
If your post will contain content which people are likely to find distressing, particularly if it will include images or video, it can be courteous to post a trigger warning or content warning. For example, if you were condemning an act of animal cruelty but included an image or footage with this, a content warning about animal cruelty and/or bloody images would be appropriate. To do this, you might start the text of your post with "Caution", "Trigger warning" or "TW", then what the warning is about, so in this example "animal cruelty, bloody violence" before giving the main body of your text. It is good practice to add warnings, as social media can be particularly triggering for those with eating disorders and PTSD. Starting a post with "Content warning" then the type of distressing content is good practice. Be mindful about what you post and how you post it.